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The Real McCoy and 149 Other Eponyms extracted in the Daily Mail

on Tue, 10/02/2018 - 14:13

From boycotts to Biros, the English language is rich in eponyms — a place or thing named after individuals. But who were the people behind them? In a fascinating new book, Claire Cock-Starkey reveals all . . .

Boycott — protesting by refusing to engage commercially or otherwise with a company, political party or person

During the Irish Land War in 1880, tenants who were charged unfair rents were encouraged to stop dealing with the land agents representing their affluent landlords. One early non-violent protest was against Charles C. Boycott, a wealthy retired Army officer turned farmer in County Mayo. 

When his tenants, who as part of their rental agreement farmed his land for him, asked him to reduce rents by 25 per cent, Boycott refused and attempted to evict them. In response, they refused to talk to anyone associated with him and withdrew their labour.

Their efforts were ultimately futile. After the incident was reported in the newspapers, a 'Boycott Relief Fund' was established and volunteers from Belfast arrived to harvest the crop.

Dunce — someone who is slow at learning

The word 'dunce' is derived from a 13th-century monk, John Duns Scotus. Scotus — who hailed from the village of Duns in Scotland — was a theologian of great repute. Indeed his scholarship remains highly esteemed in the Catholic Church and he was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1993 — the first step to becoming a saint.

During the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, Catholic teachings were widely criticised, and adherents of Scotus's beliefs were characterised as too stupid to think for themselves. Anyone espousing his theories became known as 'Duns' and considered intellectually inferior.

Foxtrot — a ballroom dance

The foxtrot is said to have been invented by vaudeville entertainer Harry Fox in 1914 when he began performing a fast yet simple trotting-style dance during his performances at the New York Theatre. The dance was immediately popular in clubs, and by the end of 1914 the American Society Of Professors Of Dancing decided to teach it as the Foxtrot.

Read full article here

The Real McCoy and 149 Other Eponyms
Claire Cock-Starkey
The Bodleian Library
ISBN 9781851244980
Hardback, £9.99

Contact Yale Representation for more information.